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Robinsbite: February 2009

Friday, February 27, 2009

Put the Bag Down. Seriously

Nothing like a little mold to scare away the thief in the break room. You know who you are. You steal cans of Diet Coke, leftover take out food, chips and cookies out of lunch bags and then you sit with the quizzical look on your face when your co-worker walks around and asks if you know who took her Clementine oranges out of her lunch sak. Who could have done that? It's so rude! You agree wholeheartedly while smugly thinking to yourself "There were 4 in there-she's not going to miss 1, right? They are so small anyway." Rationalize away, my friend.

I had to laugh when my friend and colleague Shelley Rael, MS, RD, LD and dietitian for the University of New Mexico Health Promotion Program in Albuquerque, NM posted this buy.

Brilliant!! And great for a laugh---April Fool's Day is around the corner, you know!

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Thursday, February 26, 2009

I've Never Heard Such Dissapointment about the Beloved Girl Scout Cookie

Recently, I've heard the same rant from folks near and far...they cannot understand why they have not been approached by the sweet little green-getuped Girl Scott to purchase cookies. I, too, fall into that category. I live in a child friendly and child abundant neighborhood yet nary a one has been knocking on my door. People have lamented to me that not only have they not seen their door to door GS of late, but they have not seen any card tables outside of common drug stores and/or grocery stores. What gives?

It seems that while overall cookie sales are down nationwide, the good folks of North Texas have managed a 2% increse in pre-sales this year. See below for USA Today's scoop on the situation:

Natalie Martin, director for marketing and communication at the Northeast Texas Council, near Dallas, says that council has seen a 2% increase in pre-sales this year. For the first time in 10 years, headquarters reduced each box size by about one ounce this year because of increased ingredient and transportation costs, says Denise Pesich, vice president of communications for Girl Scouts of the USA. The $3.50 average cost per box has been the same for the past five years, Tompkins says.

• Eastern South Carolina Council, near Charleston, shows pre-sales down 19% from 868,386 boxes in 2008 to about 700,000 boxes so far this year, says product sales manager Keisha Frost.

• Northeast Ohio Council, near Cleveland, reports pre-sales down about 16%, from 2.5 million to 2.1 million boxes, says Marianne Love, director of business services.

• Nation's Capital Council, in Northern Virginia, Washington and parts of Maryland, sees 5% fewer pre-sales, down to 3.7 million boxes, says public relations and marketing director Nancy Wood.

• Frontier Council in Las Vegas sales are down 1.3% from 612,792 to 604,524 boxes, says development director Emily Smith.

About two-thirds of the 133 Girl Scout councils nationwide sell cookies from January through March, Tompkins says. The rest sell in the fall. Most proceeds, she says, go to troops and councils to pay for trips, community projects and scholarships.

Love said some leaders are reporting longtime customers purchasing in smaller quantities."If a customer was purchasing six to eight boxes, now they're purchasing three to four," she says.

For the first time in 10 years, headquarters reduced each box size by about one ounce this year because of increased ingredient and transportation costs, says Denise Pesich, vice president of communications for Girl Scouts of the USA. The $3.50 average cost per box has been the same for the past five years, Tompkins says.

What about you? Have you purchased your GS Cookies this year? Or are you suffering from the Girl Scout Cookie moratorium, too? Let me know...maybe we'll have to let the good people at Council know that we have a shortage on our hands.


York Street Dinner benefits Days of Taste

Exclusive Wine Dinner at York Street to benefit Days of Taste Program

As she has done annually for many years, Chef-Owner Sharon Hage will once again open the doors of York Street for an extraordinary fundraising dinner benefiting the American Institute of Wine and Food's ( Days of Taste Program. I've attended this dinner before and believe me, it truly is extraordinary. Not at all surprising from acclaimed Chef Hage and her wonderful staff. THANK YOU!

I have had the honor of directing the Days of Taste program in Dallas for the last 5 years. Without a doubt, this is the most rewarding program I have ever been a part of-ever. The basis of the program is simple: It's a discovery-based program teaching fourth- and fifth-graders how food weaves its way through daily life from the farm to the table. Teams of chefs, food professionals, farmers, nutritionists and teachers collaborate to guide children through an exploration of taste that culminates with a homemade lunch fresh from the Dallas Farmer's Market. I can tell you from personal experience that the kids leave with much, much more than what is described above. Here is what I see:

  • Pride in kids faces after preparing and serving their own meal
  • Improved self esteem from having the tools and knowledge to make good food decisions for themselves
  • Sense of teamwork as they work side by side with their classmates to prepare a healthy and nutritious lunch
  • An excitement-that they profess-that they've never felt before about food
  • And a lot more intangible rewards that are too many to list

To be a part of this incredible program, email me. I'll bring you on board for the time of your life!

Details for the York Street Dinner

  • Monday, March 2nd, at 7:00PM
  • A special seasonal, four-course menu paired with wines from small vineyards will be offered along with a Champagne reception
  • AIWF members $125 Guests $150.
  • It’s just a phone call (214-696-2493) or

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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

My Lunch Is Causing Global Warming!

I came across by way of website. Go Green Get Lean is the name of a new book by America's Green Nutritionist, Kate Geagan, MS, RD. More on Kate and her book in a later post. is the brainchild of the Bon Appetit Management Company Foundation. They want us to know that 1/3 of the global greenhouse emissions are due to the current food system-which includes our food choices. The Low Carbon Diet Calculator is an interactive tool that allows you to click and drag your daily food choices into a virtual cast iron skillet that then calculates how severe your carbon emissions are based on your meal.

Calculated in CO2e points (don't worry, they explain them on the site), the points rise and fall on the thermometer based on your choices. Obviously, the more plant based, local foods you chose, the lower your emissions. The more animal based foods you chose, the higher. I calculated mine based on my meals from yesterday and my total was easily in the 7500 CO2e range.

Tips for going on a low carbon diet include: moove away from beef and cheese, stop flying fish and if it's processed and packaged skip it. Many more helpful tips are on the FAQ page.

To be part of the solution and not the problem, the recommendation is to chose foods that reduce emissions by 25%. Looks like I've got some work to do.

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From the Kitchen of...Michelle Obama

Regardless of your political views of her husband, one cannot argue with the thoughtful truth delivered by Michelle Obama to six culinary students as they toured the White House kitchen the night of the Obama's first state dinner.
Michelle Obama invited six L'Academie de Cuisine students to attend Sunday's menu briefing, explaining the dinner's various courses and introducing them to the White House executive chef.
Michelle Obama invited six L'Academie de Cuisine students to attend Sunday's menu briefing, explaining the dinner's various courses and introducing them to the White House executive chef.

WASHINGTON (CNN) – Michelle Obama invited six Maryland culinary school students into the executive kitchen Sunday before the president and first lady hosted their first state dinner.

Obama allowed the top-ranked L'Academie de Cuisine students to attend the menu briefing, explaining the dinner's various courses and introducing them to the White House Executive Chef Cristeta Comerford. While meeting with the culinary apprentices, the first lady weighed in on locally grown foods and opened up about a struggle that most moms face — how to coax children into eating their vegetables.

"When you grow something yourself and it's close and it's local, oftentimes it tastes really good," Mrs. Obama said. "And when you're dealing with kids, for example, you want to get them to try that carrot. Well, if it tastes like a real carrot and it's really sweet, they're going to think that it's a piece of candy. So my kids are more inclined to try different vegetables if they're fresh and local and delicious."

The first lady said the goal of the event was to "showcase some of this talent," so the students met head pastry chef Bill Yosses, the culinary artist responsible for preparing a first family favorite — the White House huckleberry cobbler.

“Maybe one day you guys might wind up being a White House chef,” White House Social Secretary Desiree Rogers told the group.

What's cooking in the WH kitchen? <>
From CNN's Sarah Parker <>

A shout out to my friend and colleague Mitzi Dulan, RD-who knows how I feel about local food- for sending this my way. (

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Monday, February 23, 2009

10 Things I Learned at Empire Baking Company

As a member of Slow Food Dallas Ft. Worth Chapter, ( I must say I am quite impressed with bevy of events, tastings and hands on experiences the Slow Food Convivium leaders offer.

Case in point: Baking Bread with Meaders and Robert Ozarow at Empire Baking Company. Empire is synonymous with the best bread in Dallas. Ask the multitude of corporate clients, restaurants, hotels and the regular folk who swear by their goods.

The experts at Empire Baking Company hosted a group of 40 plus individuals on Saturday afternoon and provided an overview of the entire bread making process, a tour of the operation and of course, enough samples of bread and other Slow Food-ish type treats to fill the belly and then some.

Here is what I learned:
1. Empire Baking Company is loyal to King Arthur flour. Period.
2. The slits across the top of baguettes? Not just for decor. They are called Expansion Joints.
3. When asked about the 30 year old starter that they use vs. the 15 year history that Empire Baking Company boasts, the crowd fell silent.
4. The "Baker's Percentage" refers to the fact that all ingredients should be in relation to measurement of the flour.
5. The more protein in the flour, the firmer the chew. The less protein in the flour, the softer the chew.
6. Yeasts are made with either 1. molasses or 2. corn syrup. The newer yeasts are made with corn syrup.
7. Head Baker Chris Cutshall is obviously passionate about his work. He is the Einstein of Bread and professes his love for his work by sharing his knowledge with others.
8. Temperature, humidity, temperature, humidity, temperature, humidity. These are the life and/or death of the dough.
9. The following starters contain yeast: Straight, Pulish, Biga and Pate Fermente. The following starters are natural: Lactic Sour, Liquid Levain, Levain and Rye Sour.
10. It still breaks my heart that there is only one Empire Baking Company retail outlet left in town. And if you don't get there early, you'll miss out on one of their delicious sandwiches.
5450 W Lovers Lane. Dallas, TX 75209.

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Friday, February 20, 2009

Ode to Trader Joe's

Many of you have the joy and the pleasure of shopping regularly at a Trader Joe's supermarket. I, along with the other billions of people in the State of Texas, do not. But I 've been there-several times-during my travels in TJ cities across the US. I've experienced all of the uniqueness, the hipness, the "own brand" bottles, jars, bags and frozen items, the wine, the samples and all of the other Trader Joe-esq items they have to offer. I, like many of you, love it.

In a somewhat recent call to the folks at Trader Joe's, they guaranteed me that they would not be bringing any of their stores to the Texas market. Too much competition from a company with three little letters in their name. I'll leave those three little letters up to your imagination, but the letters H, B and E could be some of them.

Forget that Dallas alone has grocery stores on every corner and that specialty stores pop up continuously in vacant shopping centers. I'm not complaining-believe me-I LOVE the wealth of specialty and mainstream stores that are available here in the Dallas Ft. Worth Metroplex.

I can still long for Trader Joe's, can't I? Take a look at the love, passion and creativity this guy has for a grocery store!


Thursday, February 19, 2009

Want to Eat Better, America?

Kudos to Amber, ( my wonderful student who works with me) for finding this very cool website.
Amber is a huge fan-she swears by the chicken enchiladas- and has tried many of the recipes-which have been "healthified" (their term) and still "flavorfied" (my term).

Free tips, great recipe makeovers, coupons and a very cool
"You Are What You Eat" interactive game found me spending a decent amount of time on here. Those mini chocolate cheesecakes are looking pretty good, too!

Check it out and let me know what you think. Thanks for the tip, Amber!

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Buy Organic? What Say You and a J-O-B

Since many are looking for jobs these days, perhaps this may be of interest:

A new Census of Agriculture shows that the number of female farmers has gone up 30 percent since 2002, an increase spurred in part by the growth of the organic market.

How Bout Them Apples!

And on that note, let's review again the "Dirty Dozen". This is the must buy organic foods created by the folks at the Environmental Working Group.

Must-buy organic foods

  • Apples
  • Cherries
  • Grapes, imported (Chili)
  • Nectarines
  • Peaches
  • Pears
  • Raspberries
  • Strawberries


  • Bell Peppers
  • Celery
  • Potatoes
  • Spinach
Do you buy organic? What do you buy? Why?

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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Lessons of the Square Watermelon

Lessons of the Square Watermelon
Believe it or not, this comes from a forwarded email that I received from a friend. More than likely, she sent it for the "change is possible" message. I'm posting it for that message as well as the square watermelon message. Fascinating!

Japanese grocery stores had a problem. They are much smaller than shops in the USA and therefore don't have room to waste. Watermelons, big and round, wasted a lot of space. Most people would simply tell the grocery stores that watermelons grow round and there is nothing that can be done about it.

That is how majority of people would respond. But some Japanese farmers took a different approach. If the supermarkets wanted a square watermelon, they asked themselves, "How can we provide one?" It wasn't long before they invented the square watermelon.
The solution to the problem of round watermelons was not to solve as the farmers did not assume it was impossible - and simply asked how it could be done.

They found out that if you put the watermelon in a square box when they are growing, the watermelon will take on the shape of the box - and grow into a square fruit. This made the grocery stores happy and had the added benefit that it was much easier and cost effective to ship the watermelons. Consumers also loved them because they took less space in their refrigerators which are much smaller than those in the US meaning that the growers could charge a premium price for them.

The lesson lies within the process. Here is the take home message for anyone considering change in their life:
1. Don't Assume
2. Question habits
3. Be Creative
4. Look for a Better Way
5. Impossibilities often aren't

Monday, February 9, 2009

This weather begs one thing: Tomato Soup. As we all know, January is not tomato season-next best thing is to use Roma tomatoes or a high quality canned tomato product such as San Marzano to replace the fresh tomato.

Today, I've used roma tomatoes and have modified this recipe from to make it my own:

Fresh Tomato Soup

1 large onion, quartered
4 cloves of garlic, halved
3 lbs roma tomatoes, halved
3 cups fat free, less sodium chicken broth
1 T thinly sliced fresh basil
olive oil

Preheat oven to 400. Place tomatoes, garlic and onion on a baking sheet, being careful not to crowd the sheet. Drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper and roast for 30-40 minutes.
Heat chicken stock over medium high heat and add roasted garlic, tomatoes and onions. Place half of the tomato mixture in a blender. Remove center piece of blender lid (to allow steam to escape); secure blender lid on blender. Place a clean towel over opening in blender lid (to avoid splatters). Blend until smooth. Pour into a large bowl. Repeat procedure with remaining tomato mixture. Adjust seasonings. Ladle 3/4 cup of soup into bowls and top with basil.

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